Former Justice Department Official Favored Conservatives in His Hiring, Report Says
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
A former Justice Department official entrusted with enforcing civil rights laws refused to hire lawyers whom he labeled as "commies" and transferred another attorney for allegedly writing in "ebonics" and benefiting from "an affirmative action thing," according to an investigation released yesterday by internal watchdogs.
The department's inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility concluded that Bradley J. Schlozman violated civil service laws and made false statements about his activities to Congress in 2007, but federal prosecutors in the District declined to pursue a criminal perjury case against him.
Over three years in which he controlled employment decisions, Schlozman favored young conservatives for entry-level jobs, transferred those he called "right-thinking Americans" into top assignments and instructed colleagues that "adherents of Mao's little red book need not apply," according to e-mails cited in the report. Authorities analyzed 112 career hires during Schlozman's tenure and determined that "virtually all" of the lawyers whose political affiliations were known at the time had ties to Republicans or conservative legal groups.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said the findings confirm "some of our worst fears about the Bush administration's political corruption of the Justice Department" and highlight the need for "new leadership."
The report emerged two days before Clinton-era Justice Department official Eric H. Holder Jr. is scheduled to appear on Capitol Hill for attorney general confirmation hearings, during which he is expected to announce his intention to commit more resources to prosecuting civil rights violations and hate crimes.
The report's description of racial and political bias at the department underscores the difficulty of the task before Holder, who not only would oversee enforcement of the nation's civil rights laws but also would have to deal with diversity issues at his agency.
The report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and OPR chief H. Marshall Jarrett marks the last in a series of investigations into the infusion of politics at the department. The scandal prompted more than a dozen senior officials to resign. The findings of widespread political influence in hiring and promotion decisions for career posts undermined confidence in the department's work and gave new ammunition to defendants seeking to overturn their convictions.
Senior Democrats yesterday lambasted the decision not to prosecute Schlozman, who resigned in August 2007 after serving for a year as interim U.S. attorney in Missouri. Schlozman now practices law at a firm in Wichita.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose questions to Schlozman at a congressional hearing nearly two years ago helped form the basis of the criminal referral, said the judgment by the U.S. attorney's office not to bring charges was "both surprising and confounding, given that the inspector general clearly determined Mr. Schlozman made false statements to Congress" when he denied thwarting civil service laws.
Shanetta Cutlar, chief of the special litigation section in the civil rights division, told investigators that Schlozman acknowledged to her in March 2007, three months before his disputed congressional testimony, that he "probably made some mistakes. . . . I probably considered politics when I shouldn't have."
Patricia A. Riley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, declined to address why prosecutors decided not to pursue an indictment. "Our focus was very narrow," Riley said, "namely, whether Brad Schlozman made prosecutable false statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2007."
William Jordan, an attorney for Schlozman, blasted Justice Department watchdogs for reaching conclusions that were "unsupported" by the law. Jordan said the department failed to consider other evidence, including what he described as a list of more than two dozen Democratic lawyers whom Schlozman had hired.
"This so-called investigation was a Star Chamber-type inquiry from the start," Jordan said.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for the department, called the report "troubling" and said that Schlozman had "deviated" from the law. In recent months, department officials have placed more control over hiring in the hands of career lawyers.
Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey also quietly moved several civil rights unit veterans who had left during Schlozman's tenure back into management posts.